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Thread: Shifting

  1. #1
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    Jun 2013


    Ok, I am a real noob. I have never had a bike with gears before and I just picked up a used Trek 820 so I can begin to learn.

    I have riden paved trails 4 or 5 times now and I can't seem to get the hang of shifting. I know the basic concept that the left shifter controls the front gears with 1 being the easiest and 3 being the hardest, and that the right shifter controls the back gears for "fine tuning."

    What I can't seem to figure out is what it should feel like when I am climbing a hill. I am usually in 2 on the left and 3 on the right for flat sections. Should I be shifting higher or lower for the incline that is too steep to stay in this gear? I feel like if I go lower I am peddling like a madman and not going anywhere but if I shift higher I have trouble powering up the hill. Can anyone give me the basics on what climbing should feel like (besides of course the burning legs

    Thanks for helping out a real noob.

  2. #2
    Hi There!
    Reputation: TheGweed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    It depends on how steep the climb, but for me personally i use the middle chainring on the front almost exclusively and then switch gears on the rear as needed.

  3. #3
    Reputation: eatdrinkride's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005

    Re: Shifting

    Most folks are comfortable spinning at 60 to 80 rpm's. Try to use a gear combo that gets you to this starting point. Fitness and strength obviously play a role.

  4. #4
    My little friends
    Reputation: EABiker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    As posted above, the middle front chainring gets the most use for me. I shift the rear to keep me in my peddling comfort zone whether it is going up, down or level. Sometimes I am in a given gear for only a few seconds; it gets too hard, shift down to spin more, things get easier, shift up to go faster. If it gets too hard to climb in the middle ring, shift into the small front. If you need more speed, shift into the big front ring. Remember, its all about efficiency, and that is what I call the comfort zone. The only thing to avoid is known as cross-gearing, which is, for example, being in the small front chainring, (think climbing power), and small rear cassette gear, (think speed). Better to shift back up into the mid ring when you can. You'll get it all after a few miles under your belt!

  5. #5
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    Reputation: JoePAz's Avatar
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    May 2012
    The way to use gears is to change them to allow you spin the pedals at a constant rate. That is called cadence and is expressed in RPM. 60 to 90 RPM is pretty common for each person there is an optimum where you produced the max power. Power is a result of the force you apply to the pedals and how often you apply the force. You can push really hard on the pedals, but very slowly or push lightly and much faster. The ends result is the same power gets to the rear wheel.

    Each person has a different sweet spot for what is comfortable for a short burst of speed or for keeping up for a long time.

    The gears allow a rider to stay in that sweet spot of effort and cadence for any ground speed. So on the flats you can run a taller gear comb. larger front /smaller rear. This allows you to go faster, but when trail goes up you lower the gears (smaller front, larger rear) and this will make effort easier allowing you run the same cadence. Of course you speed decreases.

    Generally since I run a triple. (3 front 9 rear). I use the middle front for most level ground. I will use the smaller front for longer sustained climbs and the big front ring for pavement for high speed descents. There rear gets shifted pretty frequently to keep my legs running at similar force (how hard I am pushing) and similar cadence ( 80-90 rpm).
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  6. #6
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    Reputation: albertdc's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    As you climb a hill, you should shift to an easier gear. The steeper the hill, the easier your gear will need to be. You should aim for maintaining a similar cadence (speed at which you turn the pedals over), so you will need an easier gear to do that. Of course, that will result in you slowing down compared to going flat, but no way around that.
    If you are in your 2nd ring in front and 3rd gear in back (assuming 1st in back is the easiest), you should shift the back to 2nd and then even 1st if needed. If the hill gets steep or long enough that you can't maintain your cadence, you will then change to the 1st ring in front but will then need to shift the back up to 3rd or so. That change generally puts things just a little easier than where you just left them (2nd in front, 1st in back). You then will be able to go to 2nd in back and even 1st in back if it is very steep.
    If you are immediately shifting from the 2nd in front to 1st in front, you will feel like you are spinning wildly going nowhere because you dropped down to many easy gears all at once.

    Make sense?

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